Ring-billed Gulls in Richmond

I was over on the Lower Mainland today and managed to get a little bit of birding in before having to catch the ferry back to Vancouver Island. I had just enough time to check out two reports on the Yahoo Vancouver Birding list serve – a Scrub Jay that was reported at Terra Nova as recently as November 3 and an immature Franklin’s Gull at Garry Point in Richmond.

Unfortunately, I was skunked on both birds. With the time pressure of trying to make the 5:45 pm Tsawwassen ferry and contend with Friday rush hour traffic through the Massey Tunnel I couldn’t take as much time as I would have liked. I’m also a little embarrassed to admit that the Franklin’s would have been a lifer for me and I actually wasn’t too sure what field marks I was supposed to be looking for as I sorted through Ring-billed, Glaucous-winged, Mew, and other gulls since I didn’t have my field guide. I did see one weird looking Mew Gull with a bluish bill and bluish-green legs but nothing that would have qualified for a Franklin’s.

There were plenty of Ring-billed Gulls (Larus delawarensis) using the flooded grassy area at Garry Point and I think that this group of gulls has been fairly desensitized to the approach of people and dogs. I tried out my “new” Sigma 170mm-500mm zoom and despite the low light and slight drizzle got a couple of good shots of these easy to identify gulls. If you’re new to birding or just want to impress your non-birding friends, find some Ring-billeds and let everyone know what they are.

Ring-billed Gull (Larus delawarensis)
Ring-billed Gull (Larus delawarensis) showing yellow legs and black ring around the bill.

On second thought, neither your birding nor non-birding friends will probably be impressed. The former will likely already know the field marks for a Ring-billed Gull while the latter will more likely just think “A gull, is a gull, is gull.”

Ring-billed Gull (Larus delawarensis)
The pale-yellow eye of the Ring-billed Gull (Larus delawarensis) is another field mark to look for in good light.

Anyhow, here’s what to look for in adult Ring-billed Gulls (we’ll save the juveniles for another day):

  • a black ring around a medium sized bill
  • yellow legs
  • pale-yellow eye
  • black wingtips with two small white spots on the leading edge of the wing (in flight)

Keep an eye open for these gorgeous gulls on Vancouver Island and coastal parts of mainland southern British Columbia this winter. They really are beautifully striking birds and a good reason not to think that “A gull, is a gull, is a gull.” Maybe your non-birding friends will be impressed!